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story.lead_photo.caption More than a dozen people walked Sunday at the 30th annual National Federation for the Blind Walk-a-thon at McKay Park. The walk raises money and brings attention to issues faced by the blind. Some of the attendees planned to walk 30 laps around the lake, or about 18 miles. Photo by Gerry Tritz / News Tribune.

More than a dozen people walked around McKay Park on Sunday to raise money and draw attention to issues faced by the blind.

The 30th annual National Federation of the Blind Walk-a-thon featured blind people, along with family/friends, food and lots of walking. Some walked up to 30 laps around McKay Lake, about 18 miles.

Part of the goal of the event is to have the public "realize blindness doesn't define who we are. There are lots of obstacles and the federation works to remove obstacles so that blind people can reach their goals and live the lives they want," said Shelia Wright, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri.

Melissa Cain, the local NFB chapter president, said the walk-a-thon is in October, the same month as Meet the Blind Month, which encourages people to meet those who are blind to learn about blindness.

The walk is also near White Cane Safety Day, Oct. 15. That day is to remind drivers to pay attention to blind people, who often use white canes to navigate while walking.

One problem for blind people is with newer hybrid or electric cars that make less noise than traditional vehicles. For blind people,hearing is important when walking, especially at crosswalks or other areas where vehicles are near.

After considerable efforts, the NFB and others advocating for the blind convinced Congress to approve the Pedestrian Enhancement Safety Act.

Gary Wilbers of the Columbia NFB chapter said the law requires vehicles traveling less than 20 mph to make a certain whirling sound to alert blind people to their presence.

The law was opposed initially by automakers, who strive to make vehicles as quiet as possible, and by environmentalists who don't want noise pollution.

The law was approved in 2011 and signed by President Barack Obama. But drafting the regulations, which determines the details of the law, hasn't happened until recently.

Wilbers expects automakers to start incorporating the changes into their 2019 vehicles.

Cain said that's just one area in which the NFB hopes to create more understanding on the issue of blindness.

"We encourage people to ask questions," she said. "It's not going to offend me.

"So next time they can be more comfortable. That's part of our awareness and increasing understanding."

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